Besides President Kennedy’s assassination, the grim anniversary we mark the 22nd of this month, did you know that Valium turned 50 in November? Feeling blue, due to “excessive psychic tension?” Pop 10 milligrams of the pill with the cut-out V that resembles a heart, cause it got to the heart of your anxiety/depression no doubt!
In marking the big 50, The Wall Street Journal noted that “Valium’s success sprang in part from an aggressive marketing campaign. One 1970 ad titled ‘Mrs Raymond’s pupils do a double-take’ featured a fictional middle-aged teacher debilitated by ‘excessive psychic tension and associated depressive symptoms accompanying her menopause.’ Thanks to Valium, however, Mrs. R was once again ‘trim and smartly dressed, the way she was when school began.’
Another 1970 ad portrayed Jan (’35, single and psychoneurotic’), whose low self-esteem prevented her from finding a man ‘to measure up to her father.’ A series of snapshots span 15 years of Jan’s failed relationships, culminating in a picture of a matronly woman standing alone on a cruise ship – the fate from which Valium might have saved her.”
Oy. Some thoughts…I’d like to know how many of us were “smartly dressed” in the Seventies, for me one of fashion’s ugliest decades. Like 35 is over-the-hill? Let’s hear a little more about dear, old dad. Just what kind of a paragon was he? And about those failed relationships, maybe some of those guys were dogs, losers or finks! As for the cruise, think of all the reading you could do. I know, that was then, this is now.
Back then Valium was all over the cultural landscape. I don’t remember much about the 1979 movie Starting Over, except for that scene about the Burt Reynold’s character having a panic attack in the furniture department of Bloomingdale’s (That floor and B’s cosmetics department can still make even the most stoic of us hyperventilate). “Does anyone have a Valium?” his brother called out as Burt lurched into full panic mode. The punch line: Every woman within shouting distance reached into her purse and pulled out a little vial of Vs. Interesting: He’s having the panic attack, but she’s got the goods to fix it.
The Journal article goes on to say that today, showing its versatility, Valium is used to treat muscle spasms, irritable bowel syndrome, night terrors and – natch – panic disorder. Who knew.